The Pentagon announced Monday that at the direction of President Joe Biden it’s placing 8,500 American troops at a “heightened readiness to deploy” in support of Eastern NATO allies should the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine warrant.
Department of Defense (DOD) press secretary John Kirby stressed to reporters at a Jan. 24 briefing that “no decision has been made to deploy” any troops at this time.
“We remain committed to the (NATO) alliance, and we absolutely remain committed to bolstering the capabilities of NATO’s eastern flank to the degree that they desire that extra support,” Kirby said.
Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine, as well as Russia-annexed Crimea and Belarus. Kirby said Monday that the Russian force has continued to grow in recent days.
If deployed, the U.S. troops would act in support of the multinational NATO Response Force (NRF), which comprises roughly 40,000 air, maritime, and land troops. The decision whether to activate NRF is up to NATO, Kirby said.
The heightened alert puts the United States in a position to provide additional brigade combat teams, logistics, medical, aviation, intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance, and other capabilities into Europe in the event the NRF is activated or under a “deteriorating security environment.”
“In some cases, some of these forces were already on a heightened posture—a readiness to deploy posture—and [Secretary Lloyd Austen] decided to make it even more—shorten the tether even more,” Kirby said.
Later on Monday, Biden will hold a video call with several European leaders on the Russian military buildup and potential responses to an invasion, the White House said.
The U.S. State Department ordered family members of U.S. government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the Ukrainian capital and authorized the voluntary departure of non-essential civil servants on Sunday night.
Biden has said previously that sending U.S. troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion is “not on the table.”
U.S. officials have been working to secure a united front among the country’s allies in Europe to pose the threat of “severe” sanctions if Russia moves to invade.